It’s one thing for the Metro Police Department to be utterly stumped by the disappearance of 13-year-old Tabitha tuders, who vanished April 29 from her East Nashville neighborhood. And it’s one thing for the department to defend itself against criticismincluding from the Scenethat it’s been slow and unaggressive in its search for her. (It spent the crucial first 10 weeks theorizing that the girl ran away, only to finally concede that abduction is the more likely scenario.)
But now there are hints that the departmentand, more specifically, interim police Chief Deb Faulknerare turning on the family, blaming them for the department’s unsuccessful police work to date. Comments Faulkner made in an Associated Press story about the case last week elicited a visceral reaction from some. Asked to explain the PD’s flat-footedness, Faulkner seemed to go on the offensive: “It took three days to nail down with the family what she had on when she was missing,” she told the reporter.
She makes it sound like investigatory shortcomings are to be blamed on the family. She went on to tell the AP that police weren’t notified about Tabitha’s disappearance until about 11 hours after the family last saw her.
Another cheap shot.
It should be noted that Tabitha’s mother, Debra, left for her job at a public school cafeteria that morning, long before Tabitha got up. As was usually the case, Bo, Tabitha’s father, woke his daughter up that morning for school, then went on to his trucking job as normal. He was dressed and out the door before Tabitha was. That is why the family couldn’t immediately say what the girl was wearing. As for the 11 hours, there was no reason for the family to suspect that Tabitha didn’t board her bus and make it to school (how many parents call to talk to their kids at school during the day?), so they didn’t report her missing until shortly after she didn’t come home at her usual time.
The excuses at the expense of the family continued in the AP story. Faulkner went on to contend, rather unnecessarily, that the photos the family first supplied to the police were too old, not sufficient for searching for a maturing 13-year-old.
Even if these comments are factually correct, it’s classless for the Metro Police Department to exploit them in its own defense. It appears desperate, inconsiderate and just plain cruel. As far as we’re concerned, Faulkner’s remarks reflect poorly on her judgment and leadership. They certainly offer reason enough to consider others for the crucial position of this city’s permanent police chief.
If Faulkner and the police department want to divert attention from their shortcomings, then they should feel free to criticize the media and the numerous low-lifes who seem to populate the East Nashville neighborhood where the girl disappeared. But they should spare the family, who’ve been through quite enough.
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